OffWestEnd talks to Louis Pieris, writer of, & lead performer in, Signposts into Blackpool at The Lion & Unicorn (31 July & 1 Aug) – part of Camden Fringe.

Louis Pieris trained at The Oxford School of Drama on the Three Year Course, after completing the Foundation Course at Drama Centre London. His credits include Van Gogh (OSO Arts Centre) and The Critic (2024).  After the pandemic (that had intercepted the end of his training) had dissipated, he founded Pomona Theatre in 2022, hoping to delve deeper into the world of theatrical expression in a post-COVID world. After a couple of successful, sell-out scratch nights with Pomona Theatre, he is proud to present it’s first major production, and his debut play, Signposts into Blackpool.

 

What first attracted you to the theatre?

The theatre has opened me up as a person. It’s the one place I know I can stand up and take space. The first time I experienced a sense of timelessness was in the theatre. Acting in particular gives me a sensation like no other. It’s ability to lift you out of normal life and into a different plain of existence is worth cherishing and protecting as strongly as life itself.

 

If you could pick any one person or theatre company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?

Ensemble Not Found are a theatre collective led by East Asian performers and creatives. I adore the way they explore the boundaries of performance, and would love to collaborate with them on a project vastly different to the one we are working on at the moment. Their experimental approach, often led by director He Zhang, has inspired me to want to explore a less linear approach to story telling, fanning the flames of the love I have for mediums like physical and site-specific theatre. I myself am of Asian descent (my father is half Sri-Lankan), and find their work in boosting the recognition of Asian artists and stories exciting and admirable.

 

What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?

For me, this is where a lot of the magic happens. New writing. Intimate spaces. Diverse stories. The idea that around London between the hours of 7 and 10, there are a multitude of tiny explosions in the form of theatrical performances dotted around the city, excites me to the core. This city is so rich with Off West End theatre, it’s almost too difficult to decide what to see! This is a great thing, though, and I hope the torch of Off West End theatre keeps burning bright.

 

What was the most inspiring performance you have ever seen? Why?

Complicite’s production of The Master and Margarita, performed at the Barbican Centre, has lived with me since I watched it when I was still at school. Its vast scope and engagingly electric staging has been a huge influence on me and my future plans for my future works. My dream is to be in a show, or create one of my own, at the Barbican Centre. Its main space is absolutely stunning, and who could compete with those automatically closing doors!

 

What piece of work are you the most proud of?

As my debut play, Signposts into Blackpool has been an incredibly enriching experience. The team I have behind it has been fantastic, and have been working closely with me in rehearsals, where the piece has developed on a very collaborative basis. I am proud to have a strong team of women behind the piece, consisting of director Heather Kirk, actor Hannah Brownlie and producers Emily Susanne Lloyd and Eloise Sheffield. Their work has been not only vital, but integral to this whole project.

 

What things in your personal life do you draw from when you perform?

I was always taught to bring yourself to a role. My first term at The Oxford School of Drama consisted of an exploration of self. You are the first port of call when delving into a role. In my past, I was a highly emotional and sensitive child. This has definitely been carried into my adulthood to a degree. Through acting, I have found a medium that can find strength in these characteristics, as opposed to weakness. It’s a tool in my actors’ toolbox, just as much as it is a part of me I now see as something that gives me emotional understanding in day to day life. For a long time I resented being a sensitive person, leaving me in situations of self-doubt and, on occasion loathing. Through training as an actor, I have accepted it as a part of myself that may never go away, but a part of me that can be used to express truth, and in the best case scenario, move a room full of people to feel something.

 

Who is the best actor/actress performing on Off West End today?

I’ve been enjoying the work of Joseph Potter, who has been performing in productions by Flying Colours Productions, the sister company to Run At It Shouting.

 

Musical, comedy or drama- what’s your preference to watch?

That’s a tough one. Totally depends on the mood! I am a huge fan of darker dramatic works. Harold Pinter is my favourite playwright, and I have been very lucky to have been mentored by Harry Burton, who had a very close relationship with Harold from a young age. I have been heavily influenced and involved in Pinter’s works. However, I also really enjoyed the first voyage of the new Accidental Death of an Anarchist that showed at the Lyric Theatre. Fantastic comedy that quite rightly has been transferred. Musicals are always a joy, and I will forever be grateful to have seen West Side Story in New York with my father a few years ago.

 

Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?

Signposts into Blackpool is showing at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre on 31st July and 1st August at 8:30pm as part of The Camden Fringe. Tickets can be found on The Lion and Unicorn website. The show takes a kaleidoscopic look at relationships, in particular one couple, whose surreal experience at a wedding, casts them into an evening of discovery and revelation. It’s an hour-long play and myself and everyone involved are extremely excited to share it!

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